It has become apparent in the past ten years that supporting good health in the workplace is starting to become a priority for many employers across the UK. And it is easy to see why this is becoming at the forefront of the business agenda. With the increase in research in mental health, and the realisation that mental health can have real detrimental effects on our bodies, it is clear that any physical or mental strain on an employee is bad for business – any business, of any size, in any industry. It is vitally important that we start valuing our employees and supporting their health wherever possible. This should be on your agenda for 2020.

Without a supportive employer, a staff member can become less productive and take more sick leave. They may also leave work without notice, leaving you in the lurch. A business may find it hard to retain staff and morale may therefore be low. This particular statement rings true: For a thriving business, you need thriving employees. Inside 6Q notes the many benefits of introducing a health and wellbeing programme to your company. They say: “For a business, it’s always important to have those who work for you to be fit, healthy and happy. This is done through creating a work culture that promotes health through all aspects of their lives.”

So, we now realise it is important. Employers that care (which will hopefully be the majority of employers) will want to focus on creating a supportive environment that employees can trust and rely on when things get tough, or when illness strikes.

But why has it taken so long for employers to sit up and take note?

Some real business influencers have paved the way out of the archaic thinking that you should just plough on no matter what – a very British notion that saw employers in the past perhaps turn a blind eye at the mention of  an employee’s “stress” or unhappiness. People like Richard Branson and Bill Gates have advocated corporate health and happiness, which has meant that it has become a more widely accepted part of the corporate way of thinking.

Take the giant Google, for instance. Google’s site offers an all-encompassing wellness program which includes healthcare services, such as a chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage services, as well as access to fitness centres, classes, and community bikes. Other companies, like Asana, even create nap rooms, understanding their employees’ needs to take a quiet ten minutes out through the work day. These larger companies are leading the way, and smaller companies are following.

These smaller companies do not need to worry about having a sufficient budget for large scale wellbeing programmes like those mentioned above. There are many small things that employers can do to help their employees feel they are being cared for both physically and mentally in and out of the workplace.

In 2015, The British Heart Foundation rolled out a Health at Work initiative which includes sending their experts into companies for staff health checks, wellbeing days or even CPR training for employees. When this cost-effective programme was first released, they launched a competition that gave businesses the chance to win free fruit baskets for a year. It has been very successful in not only educating staff in various industries, but also getting more employers on board with the notion that both physical and mental health matters at work.

There are many other “small” ways an employer can support their employees’ health, including offering free flu vaccinations, buying in healthy lunches for team meetings, ensuring onsite catering has healthy options, encouraging staff to join a ‘quit smoking’ program (and subsiding this), or creating an employee sports team.

In terms of mental health support, employers should consider developing a mental health wellbeing programme. You might want to kick start this initiative with a wellness week. A wellness week could include workshops, talks, classes or sessions for improving the physical and mental health of employees. You might also want to set up a mental health policy which all staff can access. This might include offering advice for employees who spot that something might be up with another staff member. It should also include numbers which might be useful for someone to call if they are finding things difficult (such as the charity Mind, or the Samaritans.) You will also want to include some strategies to avoid bullying and unprofessional behaviour. You could consider running employee polls to get valuable feedback on how the morale is at work.

There are many actions an employer can take to help support their employees’ health. It is a matter of taking it seriously, preparing for all kinds of health issues (including and not forgetting that mental health can be just as severe as physical health symptoms) and updating staff regularly so that they know what health care and support is accessible to them. With a successful approach and ongoing investment, your business could become a healthier, happier, and a more productive workforce overall.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 828 other subscribers.

Follow us on Twitter